So declared an Islamic clergyman in Jerusalem just months before September 11. No one now doubts the sincerity of those who subscribe to such an ideology.
But perhaps equaling as disturbing as the terrorism he encouraged is the familiarity of the concepts he touted. Minus praising martyrdom, his sentiment is not unlike what Christian leaders typically express: rebuke the earth, yearn for life's end, sacrifice self, be anti-material, and follow faith.
In fact, when stripped of details, Christianity and Islam are identical in essentials. But if that's true, why then do Islamic extremists traffic in barbarism while their philosophic cousins seem relatively docile? History provides the answer.
There was a time when Christians took faith as seriously as Mid-Eastern Muslims currently do: the Medieval Era. "Man's mind is impotent," said early Christian fathers, and his proper course is to renounce "this world" for an alternate, supernatural world accessible only by death.
People complied. For over a thousand years they adhered to a faith so stringent as to make today's most devout bishop look like the Antichrist.
Then in the 13th century, Church scholar Thomas Aquinas -- strongly influenced by an ancient Greek philosopher, the father of logic, Aristotle -- departed from the accepted idea that Christian dogma is a province exclusively of faith. He attempted to demonstrate that the unaided intellect could logically validate religious teachings.
That created, however, an unintended consequence: If Christian tenets are subject to purportedly logical arguments, men questioned, mustn't those arguments consistently withstand the scrutiny of reason, which all humans possess? Then: If man's reasoning mind is qualified to untangle "spiritual" matters, why not explore earthly ones as well?
The 200 or so years that those ideas percolated throughout Europe culminated in the Renaissance, the "rebirth" of reason. Having freed his mind from the Church's iron grip, man now had means to rescue his body. The Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, individual rights, the Industrial Revolution, America, capitalism and undreamed of prosperity came in due course. Crusades, inquisitions and witch burnings were replaced by science, medicine and shuttle launches.
Medieval Christians lived in hovels, mortified the flesh, rebuked wealth, obeyed authority and died in their twenties. Modern-day Western "Christians" reside in brick houses, eat in restaurants, buy stocks, govern themselves and live to be 80. The religion to which they pay lip service is a thin, watered-down version their distant predecessors would denounce as wicked.
The Islamic Faith, by contrast, never had an Aquinas and thus never experienced a Renaissance. It was never neutered. Today's Middle-Eastern Muslims are as superstitious, pro-death, anti-material and faith-filled as European Christians were a millennium ago. Whether in 21st-century Iraq or 11th-century England, focusing on the "next world" means abandoning this one, with ignorance, poverty, famine, disease -- and constant fighting -- the predictable and inevitable results.
When a man puts faith above reason, he cannot complain when people then behave unreasonably. It's important to realize that the Muslim terrorists, and those who openly or secretly cheer them, hate the U.S. not because of its association with Christianity, but for its embrace of secularism. Reason, freedom, self-interest, individualism, happiness, science -- mastery of material production and production of material wealth -- are the West's core values, values disparaged by both Bible and Koran.
We are at war with consistent advocates of faith and self-sacrifice. We cannot defeat them by "getting back to God," as many advise. Instead, we must selfishly, unequivocally and proudly stand for the same worldly values that ended the dark and doleful night of Christian rule and ushered in the prosperous way of life Westerners enjoy today.